Thursday, May 18, 2017

2017 Regional Tournament Preview

Time to pull those belts tight and get comfortable for one of the best weekends of the year in all of sports. Regional Tournament time is here, everyone. Inside, we have previews for each of the eight regions, links to the tournament pages, and brief capsules for every team hitting the postseason trail this year.

First, our thoughts. There are a couple regions where we feel there are a couple clear cut favorites that are going to be tough to beat. On the other hand, there are a couple regions (Midwest, South Central) where it feels like almost any team could punch their ticket to the national finals. Will the hot teams who played their way in late continue their momentum? Or will the season-long success come out on top?

Host: Mercyhurst
Site: Russell Diethrick Park in Jamestown, New York
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
1. Mercyhurst (37-6), PSAC, .488, 184th, PSAC West Champions
2. West Chester (36-11), PSAC, .565, 23rd, PSAC East Champions
3. Seton Hill (36-18), PSAC, .591, 6th, PSAC Tournament Champions, PSAC West 4th Place
4. Millersville (33-17), PSAC, .524, 93rd, PSAC East 5th Place
5. Shippensburg (30-22-1), PSAC, .586, 7th, PSAC East 2nd Place
6. Shepherd (31-21), MEC, .528, 84th, MEC Regular Season Champions, MEC Tournament Champions
7. Winston-Salem State (35-17), CIAA, .473, 219th, CIAA Regular Season Champions, CIAA Tournament Champions

As we have grown accustomed to, Mercyhurst is one of the most well-rounded teams in the nation, with a .348 team batting average and a 3.46 team ERA. They are led by four batters who are setting the world on fire, and have been all season. Chris Gonzalez (.415 avg, 15 2B, 8 HR, 43 RBI, .503 OBP), Drew Delsignore (.414 avg, 14 2B, 9 HR, 56 RB, .711 SLG), Jimmy Latona (.411 avg, 14 2B, 10 HR, 35 RBI, .715 SLG, .497 OBP) and Cameron Balego (.386 avg, 14 2B, 10 HR, 47 RBI, .748 SLG, .515 OBP) are a half of a lineup that is going to terrify any pitcher which comes across it. On the mound, Russell Lamovec (7-0, 2.17 ERA, 3 CG, 58 IP, 77 K, .206 BAA), Chris Vallimont (7-1, 2.35 ERA, 53.2 IP, 82 K, .163 BAA) and Vincenzo Lucente (5-1, 3.29 ERA, 4 CG, 38.1 IP, 42 K, .235 BAA) are a trio of starters which can rival any in the nation.

West Chester doesn't have the gaudy power numbers that the Lakers do, but with a .323 team batting average and a 3.48 team ERA, they are more than capable of going on a run at any point. Shane Dressler (.396 avg, 19 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 38 RBI) leads the team in a number of offensive categories, while Mike Cipolla (7-2, 1.78 ERA, 4 CG, 3 SHO, 60.2 IP, 38 K), Eric Close (5-3, 2.47 ERA, 4 CG, 58.1 IP, 41 K), and Jon Fisher (6-2, 3.32 ERA, 4 CG, 65.0 IP, 63 K) are a very equal rival to Mercyhurst's trio, and Cipolla might be the best in the tournament.

The Griffins of Seton Hill made a huge run in the PSAC Tournament to cement their spot in the regional, and they did it behind a well-rounded attack. Tom McCarthy (.388 avg, 12 2B, 7 HR, 40 RBI), Craig Lewis (.376 avg, 20 2B, 4 HR, 33 RBI), MP Buckley (.327 avg, 10 2B, 10 HR, 35 RBI) and Mark Colella (.301 avg, 19 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 55 RBI) are extra-base hit machines. A name that might sound familiar to a lot of casual fans who only look at the regional tournaments is Perry DellaValle. The pre-season All-American has battled a sore shoulder all year and has only pitched in six games with five starts, but was hoping to return for the post-season. In that limited time, he has been stellar, going 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA and 32 K's in 32 IP. Not to mention, Joe Shaffer, who didn't put up sterling numbers this year, still threw a no-hitter against the Midwest Region's #1 seed, Northwood, early in the season.

Millersville doesn't have the obscene numbers it had last year when they reached the national championship game, but they will still be a formidable foe this year, probably behind a stellar bullpen. At the plate, Chas McCormick (.386 avg, 12 2B, 9 HR, 43 RBI) leads the team in a number of categories, while the pitching staff is led by ace Eli Nabholz (7-2, 2.82 ERA, 6 CG, 73.1 IP, 90 K) and some great bullpen arms, including Mike Mock (4-1, 1.31 ERA, 16 app, 5 SV, 20.2 IP, 9 H, 32 K, .129 BAA).

Shippensburg may have been the final PSAC team in to this field, but they also boast the top offensive threat in the region with Jake Kennedy, who has blasted 22 (!) home runs this year and driven in 71. A hitter like that can turn any game around quickly, even against the best of teams. Gabe Mosser (7-5, 2.55 ERA, 5 CG, 74.0 IP, 81 K) is a good #1, but Shippensburg doesn't have the numbers from the rest of the pitching staff that the teams above them do, although Michael Hope (1-3, 1.38 ERA, 20 app, 6 SV, 26.0 IP, 30 K) is one of the best bullpen arms in this region.

Speaking of power hitters, the champion in that category from these seven teams might be Shepherd. Although they succeeded against a step down in competition, it still takes some talent to have four guys in the double digits for home runs on the season. JJ Sarty (.362 avg, 17 2B, 15 HR, 44 RBI), Brandon Kirk (.298 avg, 11 HR, 32 RBI), Chase Hoffman (.294 avg, 11 2B, 11 HR, 46 RBI) and Daniel Heleine (.268 avg, 10 2B, 14 HR, 44 RBI) are going to bring the pop, without a doubt. The pitching staff is led by Ryan Pansch (9-0, 2.55 ERA, 3 CG, 67. IP, 69 K), while Ryan Potts (4-1, 3.18 ERA, 16 app, 3 GS, 45.1 IP, 46 K) has been doing yeoman's work out of the bullpen for much of the year.

Winston-Salem State might appear to be a bit over-matched in this region, but this is a team that is no stranger to the regional field. They have a big bat to win them games all by himself in Ivan Acuna (.370 avg, 19 2B, 11 HR, 55 RBI), and they have a staff ace in Seth Reeves (9-2, 1.84 ERA, 18 app, 12 GS, 3 CG, 73.1 IP, 60 K) along with a swing pitcher in Will Beeson (4-1, 1.67 ERA, 11 app, 7 GS, 37.2 IP, 37 K) that has put up great numbers, as well.

Host: Emporia State
Site: Glennen Field in Emporia, Kansas
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
1. Emporia State (41-11), MIAA, .532, 78th, MIAA Regular Season Champions
2. Minnesota State (44-9), NSIC, .489, 182nd, NSIC Regular Season Champions, NSIC Tournament Champions
3. St. Cloud State (39-16), NSIC, .506, 133rd, NSIC 3rd Place
4. Lindenwood (35-18), MIAA, .541, 59th, MIAA Tournament Champions, MIAA 3rd Place
5. Southern Arkansas (39-14), GAC, .490, 176th, GAC Regular Season Champions
6. Missouri Western (32-20), MIAA, .572, 15th, MIAA 2nd Place
7. Central Oklahoma (33-19-1), MIAA, .496, 159th, MIAA 5th Place
8. Arkansas-Monticello (31-19), GAC, .503, 138th, GAC Tournament Champions, GAC 3rd Place

The Hornets of Emporia State have a great record, but haven't done it with huge numbers like you usually would suspect. Their team average of .324 is good, yes, but there are no boppers in the lineup like in year's past for ESU, with only one player reaching double digits in dingers this season. Mason Brown (.383 avg, 18 2B, 6 HR, 48 RBI) leads the team in most categories offensively, but where ESU really does its damage is on the basepaths. The Hornets are 95-for-122 on stolen base attempts this year, which isn't much of a change from last season, but it has been a slight uptick to compensate for a bit of a downtick in total bases this season. The pitching staff is led by Tanner Cairns (8-1, 2.90 ERA, 2 CG, 83.2 IP), and has a trio of spectacular bullpen arms in Nathan Whitcomb (4-1, 1.42 ERA, 24 app, 10 SV, 31.2 IP), Jacob Tetuan (1-0, 2.84 ERA, 16 app, 19.0 IP, 18 K) and Layne Downing (3-4, 2.89 ERA, 21 app, 37.1 IP).

For Minnesota State, it was a season without much resistance from its opponents, evidenced by its 182nd position in national strength of schedule. However, they had a balanced offensive attack, with seven starters batting over .300 on the season and four guys hitting eight or more home runs and tallying over 100 total bases. The Mavericks' strength, by far, is on the mound, where a 2.67 team ERA (second in Division II) and 447 K's in 428.1 IP has led the way. Dalton Roach (9-1, 1.74 ERA, 5 CG, 77.2 IP, 121 K, .189 BAA), Mitchell Bauer (8-0, 2.78 ERA, 2 CG, 81.0 IP, 65 K, .223 BAA), Brody Rodning (6-3, 3.00 ERA, 5 CG, 3 SHO, 66.0 IP, 74 K, .202 BAA) and Nick Belzer (6-1, 3.64 ERA, 54.1 IP, 71 K, .227 BAA) form a spectacular four-man rotation. Ricky Digrugilliers (7-0, 1.57 ERA, 12 app, 46.0 IP, .194 BAA) is an incredible bullpen arm and occasional starter, and also part of our all-name team.

St. Cloud State has eight regular starters hitting over .300, but the power is almost non-existent for the Huskies this season. Only two players have hit more than two home runs, and only two players hit the 85 total bases mark on the year. Just like MSU, the strength of the team is on the mound, where Cal Giese (8-2, 2.02 ERA, 2 CG, 66.2 IP, 72 K) is a solid ace and Miles Nablo (4-1, 1.85 ERA, 26 app, 6 SV, 34.0 IP) has been crushing it out of the bullpen.

Lindenwood played its way in to a spot by putting together a run through the MIAA Tournament to capture the crown and earn the school's first baseball regional appearance in Division II. The Lions are led at the plate by a trio of guys who tallied over 100 total bases each, with Wes Degener (.403 avg, 7 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 34 RBI, 21/27 SB), Drew Quinones (.372 avg, 15 2B, 4 HR, 43 RBI) or Kyle Teter (.333 avg, 11 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 56 RBI) leading the team in every offensive category. On the mound, the Lions don't boast great numbers from their starting rotation, with one guy, Brendan Feldmann (7-3, 3.16 ERA, 4 CG, 2 SHO, 2 SV, 105.1 IP, 104 K, .227 BAA), tallying an ERA under 4.00 in the rotation. Connor Law (5-1, 2.23 ERA, 26 app, 11 SV, 48.1 IP, 56 K), however, has been a weapon out of the 'pen to more than make up for it.

The Muleriders of Southern Arkansas dominated the GAC most of the year, and they have power to spare in the batting lineup. 123 team doubles, 19 triples, and 60 home runs as a squad, including seven (!!!) guys with 11 or more doubles. That attack is led by Trevor Rucker (.387 avg, 64 R, 20 2B, 4 3B, 20 HR, 49 RBI, .860 SLG, .498 OBP, 18/23 SB), who can do any and everything for the Muleriders, and has. There isn't a spot in the lineup for a breath as an opposing pitcher. On the bump, Dalton Algiene (10-3, 2.09 ERA, 3 CG, 2 SHO, 77.2 IP, 92 K, .211 BAA) has been incredible all year starting games off, and Makenzy Larsen (5-0, 0.74 ERA, 23 app, 7 SV, 36.2 IP, .160 BAA) has been wrapping games up on the back end with staggering consistency.

For Missouri Western, it is another balanced attack, but without the big numbers. Only four starters are hitting over .300 on the season, but eight different players have at least three home runs on the season. Nick Gawley (.359 avg, 18 2B, 3 HR, 35 RBI) and David Glaude (.351, 13 2B, 8 HR, 47 RBI) lead the offensive, while a workman's pair of Nate Hunter (8-2, 2.36 ERA, 87.2 IP, 60 K) and Richard Peoples (8-2, 3.08 ERA, 5 CG, 105.1 IP, 59 K) have put up an insane amount of innings this year as the two main starters.

Central Oklahoma was a bit of a surprise in the tournament field, using a run to the MIAA Tournament championship series as a vault in to the field after not being ranked in the region the week prior. The Bronchos don't have big numbers, but seven regular starters have driven in between 21 and 39 runs on the season. Gibson Russ is one of the national leaders in saves, with 14 saves to go along with a 5-1 record, 2.93 ERA, and 39 K's in 27.2 innings and 26 appearances so far this year.

Arkansas-Monticello used an undefeated run in the GAC Tournament to earn its spot in the field. Another team without big numbers anywhere, UAM has just been a solid squad for the duration of the season, hanging around near the top of its conference and taking charge when it needed to. Brian Ray (.335 avg, 45 R, 9 2B, 7 HR, 40 RBI, .513 SLG, .427 OBP, 17/18 SB) leads the team in a number of offensive categories, while Landon McFadden (3-1, 2.97 ERA, 27 app, 3 SV, 39.1 IP, 23 K, .211 BAA) leads the pitching staff with solid production out of the bullpen.

Host: Southern New Hampshire
Site: Penmen Field in Manchester, New Hampshire
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
1. Southern New Hampshire (41-9), NE-10, .498, 151st, NE-10 Regular Season Champions, NE-10 NE Champions
2. New Haven (29-11), NE-10, .494, 165th, NE-10 Tournament Champions, NE-10 SW 2nd Place
3. St. Thomas Aquinas (28-15), ECC, .532, 79th, ECC Regular Season Champions
4. LIU Post (30-18), ECC, .575, 13th, ECC Tournament Champions, ECC 2nd Place
5. Felician (33-13), CACC, .498, 152nd, CACC Regular Season Champions
6. Southern Connecticut State (27-14-1), NE-10, .520, 102nd, NE-10 SW Champions
7. Dominican (21-27), CACC, .483, 199th, CACC Tournament Champions, CACC 6th Place

It isn't often that a team puts up a record like SNHU's with a .262 team batting average. But you can see where this is going. Ryan Sullivan (.276 avg, 41 R, 11 HR, 44 RBI) is the biggest bat in the lineup, but it is the pitching mound, as usual, where the Penmen have made their hay. A team ERA of 3.04 is one of the best in the country, and it is led by Mitchell Powers (5-2, 1.70 ERA, 5 CG, 74.1 IP, 46 H, 89 K) in the rotation and a shut-down Stephen Fortuna (4-0, 0.82 ERA, 13 app, 3 SV, 22.0 IP, 12 H, 24 K) coming out of the bullpen.

The story gets even better for the biggest threat to SNHU in New Haven. The Chargers, 14-time regional champions, have a team average of only .260, led by Jack Zagaja (.348 avg, 12 2B, 4 HR, 37 RBI). Again, though, the pitching staff is where it's at for UNH. And the numbers bear out even better than the team above them. UNH has a team ERA of 2.68, third in Division II. David Palmer (8-0, 1.40 ERA, 70.2 IP, 72 K) and Tim Kennedy (6-0, 1.44 ERA, 56.1 IP, 77 K) are the one-two punch, while the bullpen is even better. Brandon LaManna (1-2, 0.92 ERA, 15 app, 19.2 IP, 29 K), Joe Caico (4-0, 1.06 ERA, 17.0 IP, 13 K), Colin Keyes (0-0, 1.74 ERA, 10.1 IP), Kellen Croce (1-1, 2.25 ERA, 18 app, 6 SV, 24.0 IP, 40 K) and Josh Walker (3-1, 2.67 ERA, 18 app, 27.0 IP, 30 K) are basically the entirety of a bullpen that has shut down virtually everyone they've come across.

St. Thomas Aquinas is the most recent regional champion in this field, taking the tournament crown in 2014, and they have a formidable squad this year, as well. It is one of the better offensive teams in this region, with a .290 team average that is buoyed by both Joseph Pena (.402 avg, 56 R, 10 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 35 RBI, 24/29 SB) and do-everything Giovanni Dingcong (.291 avg, 45 R, 15 HR, 40 RBI, 23/26 SB). The pitching staff isn't as gaudy, which is to be expected compared to the NE-10, but it is still great. Frankie Moscatiello (8-1, 1.60 ERA, 73.1 IP, 83 K) is a bona-fide ace, while Chris Pennell (2-2, 1.43 ERA, 23 app, 37.1 IP, 48 K) was arguably the top bullpen arm in the conference.

LIU Post made a great run to the ECC Tournament championship, but the most important part of its resume might be that strength of schedule number. LIU Post's strength of scheduled ranked 13th in the nation, while the next closest in this tournament was St. Thomas Aquinas at 79th. LIU Post was competitive against fellow stalwarts like SNHU (4-3 W), Franklin Pierce (6-2 W), Felician (9-5 W), Southern Connecticut State (3-2 W, 9-4 W, 9-7 W, 2-0 L), and they went 3-3 against STAQ. A sneaky good team that has proven it can triumph over the opponents it will be facing this weekend.

Felician doesn't have much long-ball power, but had four players hit as least 12 doubles this season, with the offense being led by Ronnie Grant (.373 avg, 42 R, 12 2B, 8 3B, 4 HR, 41 RBI). Felician is led by a group of four stellar starters, with John Holland (7-1, 1.48 ERA, 2 CG, 66.2 IP, 64 K), Brennan Price (3-0, 2.13 ERA, 38.0 IP, 28 K), Rob Naughton (6-1, 2.42 ERA, 48.1 IP, 45 K) and Jason Polgano (6-2, 2.61 ERA, 62.0 IP, 43 K) leading the way. Yet again, it is another team with a spectacular bullpen arm as well, with Quinn Taylor (3-0, 1.89 ERA, 18 app, 19 IP, 13 K) being the go-to.

Southern Connecticut State might have the weakest numbers of the top six teams in this region, but they have found ways to win. SCSU has only hit nine home runs all year, but they are good on the basepaths (79/107 SB), and have a little bit of extra base pop with 91 doubles and 12 triples on the year. Nick Lamberti (.390 avg, 36 R, 11 2B, 24 RBI, 16/25 SB) and Greg Zullo (.358 avg, 26 R, 12 2B, 4 3B, 47 RBI, 8/11 SB) lead the way in most offensive categories, while the pitching staff is led by a pair of solid starters in Cole Bryant (8-1, 2.81 ERA, 4 CG, 3 SHO, 73.2 IP, 42 K) and Griffin Bremer (6-4, 2.97 ERA, 66.2 IP, 39 K). A pair of bullpen arms, Jake Santamaria (1-1, 2.25 ERA, 13 app, 4 SV, 16.0 IP, 14 K) and Quantique White (2-0, 2.29 ERA, 17 app, 4 SV, 35.1 IP, 18 K) anchor the way in relief.

It isn't often we get a below .500 team in the regional tournament, but here we are with Dominican. The Chargers obviously boast the weakest numbers in the region, but do have a couple solid bats in their lineup with Justin Decker (.382 avg, 29 R, 13 2B, 39 RBI) and Arbely Soto (.337 avg, 45 R, 13 2B, 4 HR, 34 RBI). The Chargers also have a solid #1 in Kraigen Rasalla (7-5, 2.63 ERA, 6 CG, 2 SV, 75.1 IP, 62 K), but it is going to be tough to keep up with the potent pitching staffs in this region.

Host: Northwood
Site: Gerace Stadium in Midland, Michigan
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
1. Northwood (43-11), GLIAC, .493, 168th, GLIAC Regular Season Champions, GLIAC Tournament Champions
2. Southern Indiana (32-19), GLVC, .513, 116th, GLVC Regular Season Champions, GLVC East Champions
3. Quincy (32-20), GLVC, .552, 37th, GLVC Tournament Champions, GLVC West 2nd Place
4. Drury (36-18), GLVC, .539, 61st, GLVC West Champions
5. Bellarmine (34-19), GLVC, .548, 43rd, GLVC East 2nd Place
6. Wayne State (Mich.) (31-19), GLIAC, .574, 14th, GLIAC 2nd Place
7. St. Joseph's (Ind.) (34-20), GLVC, .530, 80th, GLVC East 4th Place
8. Kentucky Wesleyan (27-22), GMAC, .489, 181st, GMAC Tournament Champions, GMAC 3rd Place

Northwood leads the way in the Midwest, having captured the school's first ever GLIAC regular season championship, first ever GLIAC Tournament championship, and first regional bid in history. That is quite a few firsts, and they are going to hope to keep it going behind a very good balanced attack. Freshman David Vinsky (.455 avg, 55 R, 26 2B, 4 3B, 4 HR, 59 RBI) and Connor Foley (.401 avg, 68 R, 20 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 38 RBI) might be one of the top hitting duos in the country. On top of a potent offense, the Timberwolves have arguably the best starting pitcher in the region in Tyler Jandron, the GLIAC Pitcher of the Year, who is 11-1 with a 2.31 ERA, five complete games, and 88 strikeouts in 78.0 IP. Add in rotational teammates Ian Dimitrie (6-4, 2.45 ERA, 5 CG, 80.2 IP, 65 K) and Matt Pearsall (5-2, 3.34 ERA, 56.2 IP, 27 K) to go with bullpen arms Nathan Langenfeld (2-0, 0.78 ERA, 13 app, 23.0 IP, 15 K) and Lennon Gwizdala (5-0, 1.34 ERA, 15 app, 7 SV, 33.2 IP, 28 K), and you have a very balanced, very good team who doesn't know how big of a deal they are yet.

When it comes to regional experience, USI is the staple in this year's Midwest field. The Screaming Eagles have a number of players on the team still who have been to the Division II finals, and this year they are led by a great pitching staff and experienced hitters. Drake McNamara (.367 avg, 28 R, 15 2B, 7 HR, 43 RBI) leads in most hitting categories, while Lucas Barnett (6-2, 2.64 ERA, 3 CG, 75.0 IP, 50 K) is a staff ace that can throw with anyone in this tournament.

It is tough to find a power-hitting team in the Midwest region, but if there is one this year, it is Quincy. The Hawks have three players smack at least 10 home runs this year, with Troy Wehde (.367 avg, 36 R, 7 2B, 4 3B, 11 HR, 43 RBI), J.C. DeMuri (.359 avg, 50 R, 9 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR, 54 RBI) and Jake Walters (.317 avg, 58 R, 13 2B, 18 HR, 53 RBI, .700 SLG) combining for a formidable power-hitting trio. The pitching staff leaves a bit to be desired, with only one pitcher who has started a game this year notching an ERA below 4.00. That being Graham Spraker (7-5, 2.58 ERA, 73.1 IP, 64 K).

Drury brings to the tournament the best two-way player in the country so far in this preview. Ryan Colombo (.380 avg, 48 R, 11 2B, 3 HR, 33 RBI) leads the team in a number of offensive categories, and is also the team's top pitcher (8-2, 2.60 ERA, 3 CG, 100.1 IP, 71 K). Talk about a busy man. He combines with Garrett Woods (8-2, 3.47 ERA, 3 CG, 83.0 IP, 83 K) to form a good one-two punch on the mound.

Bellarmine is led by Zac Wiley (.401 avg, 36 R, 11 2B, 9 HR, 39 RBI, .673 SLG) at the plate and Eddie Mathis (9-3, 2.74 ERA, 5 CG, 95.1 IP, 71 K) on the mound for a team that is familiar with the regional tournament experience. They do feature four regular starters all hitting .347 or above, something that not many teams in this region can even boast.

Wayne State is an interesting case, as they by far took on the toughest schedule of the season, with the 14th-toughest strength of schedule in the country. The Warriors certainly challenged themselves, facing the likes of Southern Indiana (6-5 W), St. Joseph's (9-4 W, 4-2 W, 7-6 W) and West Chester (5-3 L and 6-4 L). Brad Baldwin (.371 avg, 34 R, 20 2B, 3 HR, 38 RBI) leads the table-setting and Griffin Harms (.315 avg, 29 R, 18 2B, 9 HR, 45 RBI) knocks him in on offense, while Chris Horvath (5-4, 3.06 ERA, 67.2 IP, 70 K) has been the team's ace all year and Taylor Horn (2-2, 2.01 ERA, 19 app, 8 SV, 44.2 IP, 63 K) has been the solid stalwart in the bullpen.

Speaking of power hitting teams such as Quincy, St. Joseph's certainly fits that role as well. The Pumas have a trio of big bats in Riley Benner (.377 avg, 45 R, 21 2B, 11 HR, 48 RBI), Joshua Handzik (.335 avg, 44 R, 15 2B, 14 HR, 46 RBI) and Jeff Hightower (.288 avg, 37 R, 9 2B, 18 HR, 39 RBI) that have won plenty of games for the Pumas. The pitching staff doesn't have a stifling bullpen, but Tasker Strobel (7-3, 3.11 ERA, 3 CG, 81.0 IP, 64 K) leads a starting staff that eats up a ton of innings.

Kentucky Wesleyan may appear to be overmatched by the numbers, but the Panthers are riding a wave of momentum in to this tournament. KWC has a modest trio of big bats of their own in Andrew Kirkland (.336 avg, 32 R, 10 2B, 7 HR, 35 RBI), Adam Brown (.311 avg, 41 R, 18 2B, 7 HR, 41 RBI) and Josh Galvan (.309 avg, 36 R, 12 2B, 7 HR, 38 RBI). Ryan Hundley (6-2, 3.36 ERA, 80.1 IP, 70 K) leads the team at the front of the staff and Alex Franzen (1-1, 2.12 ERA, 20 app, 8 SV, 34.0 IP, 29 K) has been the comfort out of the bullpen.

Host: Delta State
Site: Harvey Stadium - Ferriss Field in Cleveland, Mississippi
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
1. Delta State (41-11), GSC, .576, 10th, GSC Regular Season Champions, GSC Tournament Champions
2. Tampa (37-12), SSC, .562, 25th, SSC Champions
3. Nova Southeastern (33-16), SSC, .595, 5th, SSC 2nd Place
4. Florida Southern (34-14), SSC, .575, 12th, SSC 4th Place
5. Valdosta State (33-20), GSC, .509, 125th, GSC 4th Place
6. West Alabama (34-19), GSC, .544, 50th, GSC 2nd Place
7. Miles (31-21), SIAC, .491, 172nd, SIAC Tournament Champions, SIAC West 2nd Place

Delta State ran roughshod through most of the GSC, and it was mostly thanks to a pair of power threats in the middle of its lineup. Zack Shannon (.451 avg, 60 R, 11 2B, 18 HR, 84 RBI, .795 SLG, .515 OBP) is one of the best hitters in the country, and he has a partner in crime in Clay Casey (.358 avg, 57 R, 14 2B, 17 HR, 61 RBI, .705 SLG) to lead the Statesmen. The pitching staff has an ace in Seth Birdsong (9-1, 2.82 ERA, 4 CG, 89.1 IP, 71 K) and a spectacular closer in Zach Osbon (6-1, 1.35 ERA, 21 app, 6 SV, 33.1 IP, 32 K), and there is a reason they are hosting the toughest region in the country this weekend.

Arguably the top team in the country by some accounts, Tampa certainly looks the part on offense. The Spartans have a team batting average of .340, fifth in the country despite playing in the best conference in the land. The potent offense is led by huge bats in Darren Miller (.383 avg, 38 R, 15 2B, 12 HR, 47 RBI) and J.D. Osborne (.381 avg, 60 R, 16 2B, 19 HR, 81 RBI), but they also rely on the on-base abilities of Kevin Santa (.432 avg, 70 R, 11 2B, 7 HR, 36 RBI) and Connor Crile (.400 avg, 19 R, 22 RBI). On the mound, David Lebron (7-0, 2.59 ERA, 83.1 IP, 88 K) has turned in to an ace, while Garrett Cave (5-2, 4.63 ERA, 4 SV, 56.1 IP, 74 K) has been one of the top strikeout specialists in the country.

Ho-hum, just another year of absolutely raking by Nova Southeastern, your defending national champions. The Sharks boast seven players who have hit at least seven home runs this year, including two with a pair of 15 bombs (Jeremy Vasquez and Jake Anchia) and a pair with 11 homers (Dylan Woods and Brandon Gomez). The pitching staff isn't as good as it was in 2016, which isn't a surprise, but it needs to be better in this tournament for NSU to have a shot at defending their title past this weekend. Matt Hardy (7-2, 4.13 ERA, 76.1 IP, 75 K) is the ace of the staff, while Josh Glick (1-3, 2.53 ERA, 20 app, 9 SV, 21.1 IP, 19 K) has been a solid closer in an offensive conference.

It has been a year of streaks for Florida Southern, and they are hoping to be on an upswing going in to this weekend's tournament. Four hitters have reached double digits in home runs, and five guys are hitting .323 or above. Mitch Reeves (.359 avg, 51 R, 17 HR, 52 RBI) and Cody Burgess (.335 avg, 50 R, 10 2B, 13 HR, 49 RBI) are a scary duo for opposing pitchers, while Jake Walsh (12-1, 2.37 ERA, 95.0 IP, 103 K) and Logan Browning (7-2, 3.96 ERA, 86.1 IP, 99 K) are two of the hardest-working starters in the country.

The Blazers don't have the power numbers the teams above them do, but they do have some threats, beginning with Dalton Murray (.390 avg, 35 R, 13 2B, 6 HR, 44 RBI), who leads them in doubles and RBI, and is tied for the team lead in home runs. The pitching rotation includes a pair of solid starters in Hunter Jones (7-5, 2.97 ERA, 78.2 IP, 77 K) and Austin Hamilton (5-6, 3.65 ERA, 5 CG, 88.2 IP, 103 K), and yet another consistent bullpen arm in Beau Blair (5-1, 2.45 ERA, 28 app, 7 SV, 40.1 IP, 47 K).

West Alabama gets things done with a consistent offensive attack, with five players hitting five or more home runs, and six players hitting at least 10 doubles this season. There aren't big numbers or names, but a team-wide effort to get on base has led to UWA's success. On the mound, Seth Holbert (4-2, 2.15 ERA, 3 CG, 62.2 IP, 57 K) and Cole Waites (5-1, 2.91 ERA, 52.2 IP, 63 K) form a good top duo, while rubber-armed Jonathan Porter (4-3, 2.56 ERA, 31 app, 4 SV, 52.2 IP, 43 K) seems to be at the team's disposal in every game.

Every year we hope it isn't true, but it appears this year the sacrificial lamb in the South region is Miles. The Golden Bears are making their first regional appearance in school history, and they actually have decent numbers with a team average of .328, but competition has to be considered. They are a terror on the basepaths (99/126 SB), and have a number of capable hitters, including seven starters who are hitting over .300, led by Xavius Burden (.408 avg, 32 R, 8 2B, 3 HR, 41 RBI) as a table-setter and Reeves Brashear (.340 avg, 33 R, 12 2B, 9 HR, 41 RBI) as the man to knock him in. Austin Pate has been spectacular on the mound (9-1, 3.86 ERA, 5 CG, 70.0 IP, 48 K).

Host: Mount Olive
Site: Scarborough Field in Mount Olive, North Carolina
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
1. Mount Olive (47-8), Conf. Carolinas, .543, 53rd, CC Regular Season Champions, CC Tournament Champions
2. North Georgia (42-10), PBC, .521, 99th, PBC Regular Season Champions
3. USC Aiken (39-13), PBC, .565, 22nd, PBC 2nd Place
4. Catawba (37-15), SAC, .597, 3rd, SAC Regular Season Champions
5. UNC Pembroke (40-15), PBC, .534, 75th, PBC 4th Place
6. Georgia College (35-13), PBC, .539, 64th, PBC Tournament Champions, PBC 3rd Place
7. Lincoln Memorial (33-17), SAC, .515, 110th, SAC Tournament Champions, SAC 2nd Place

It is another trio of big bats that leads the way on offense for Mount Olive. Ricky Surum (.382 avg, 64 R, 19 2B, 5 3B, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 24/30 SB), Drew Ellis (.348 avg, 56 R, 11 2B, 2 3B, 17 HR, 53 RBI) and Zack Mozingo (.339 avg, 55 R, 12 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 45 RBI) have pretty much had a monopoly on offensive production for the Trojans all year. Only two other players on the team have even driven in more than 16 RBI. It isn't often you see a team in this region with incredible pitching numbers, but UMO has pulled that off with a 2.99 team ERA, and is led by a pair of starting pitchers who might form the best duo in the country. Austin Hutchison (12-0, 1.16 ERA, 7 CG, 93.1 IP, 68 H, 97 K) and Bruce Zimmermann (9-2, 3.44 ERA, 91.2 IP, 122 K) are striking out anyone and everyone they come across, while Zack Mozingo doubles as the team's bullpen ace (3-0, 0.86 ERA, 21 app, 13 SV, 31.1 IP, 11 H, 50 K).

For the Nighthawks of UNG, eight regular starters are hitting over .300 on the season leading to a team average of .327, helping lead to a .430 on-base percentage that is 5th in Division II. The team has six players with 11 or more doubles and four players in double digit homerun territory, along with four guys who have driven in at least 47 runs. Bill Leroy (.440 avg, 35 R, 14 2B, 2 HR, 31 RBI) leads the team in average, while Michael Gouge (.396 avg, 67 R, 20 2B, 10 HR, 58 RBI, .544 OBP that is 3rd in Division II), Connor Hoover (.363 avg, 73 R, 16 2B, 5 3B, 17 HR, 70 RBI, .726 SLG), Trevor Sams (.320 avg, 46 R, 11 2B, 12 HR, 68 RBI) and Michael Bell (.303 avg, 44 R, 11 HR, 47 RBI) are the major contributors to one of the best offenses in the country. On the mound, very few are better in the top three spots of their rotation. The Nighthawks' trio of Daniel McCrary (10-1, 2.06 ERA, 3 CG, 91.2 IP, 58 K), Steven Bower (7-3, 2.14 ERA, 3 CG, 67.1 IP, 57 K) and Dylan Peppers (7-3, 3.27 ERA, 77.0 IP, 91 K) haven't given much hope to opposing lineups all season long.

USC Aiken was one of the top teams in the country all year, which shows this region's depth in that they are only a #3 seed in this tournament. The Pacers are full of extra base power, with seven players hitting at least 11 doubles this year and eight players poking at least five homers. Jose Bonilla (.402 avg, 57 R, 13 2B, 4 3B, 35 RBI) is an incredible lead-off hitter, while Mitchell Price (.330 avg, 61 R, 16 2B, 6 3B, 14 HR, 58 RBI) leads the team in almost every offensive category. The Pacers also have a pair of the nation's top strikeout specialists with Joseph Benitez (11-3, 2.34 ERA, 2 CG, 107.2 IP, 131 K) and Connor Riley (6-2, 3.74 ERA, 77.0 IP, 54 H, 124 K).

Now Catawba is entering the regional tournament on a three-game slide, but if you want to talk offense, Catawba is one of the two top teams in the nation with Georgia College. The Indians are second in the country in slugging percentage, fourth in home runs per game, and fifth in doubles per game. A team batting average of .338 lands them in the top 10, and there are five players in double digits for home runs, four players who have hit at least 15 (!!) doubles, and all nine regular starters are hitting over .300. There is nowhere to hide for pitchers. Luke Setzer (.427 avg, 66 R, 18 2B, 18 HR, 53 RBI, .756 SLG) is the unquestioned leader of the lineup, while Zach Almond (.387 avg, 51 R, 18 2B, 17 HR, 61 RBI, .749 SLG) isn't far behind. When you have an offense like that, pitching isn't really needed, but there are two guys that Catawba has leaned on. Hunter Shepherd (8-0, 3.43 ERA, 63.0 IP, 46 K) is the ace, while Bryan Blanton (1-0, 2.76 ERA, 24 app, 12 SV, 29.1 IP, 43 K) is one of the national leaders in saves.

UNC Pembroke sneaks in to the field on the strength of a couple great streaks during the season, as they put together a nine-game winning streak and a 14-game winning streak this year. One of the Braves' strengths is the basepaths, where they are 121/160 on stolen base attempts, led by Roberto Rivera (.379 avg, 72 R, 7 2B, 9 3B, 2 HR, 41 RBI, 25/33 SB), who anchors a well-balanced offense that has six batters over the .320 mark and seven hitters with at least 27 RBI this season. The pitching staff's top two arms this year, ERA-wise, have come out of the bullpen in Aaron Biggerstaff (2-1, 2.29 ERA, 19 app, 35.1 IP, 35 K) and Kyle Ramsey (4-3, 3.41 ERA, 20 app, 6 SV, 31.2 IP, 25 K), although Anthony Burke (10-1, 3.64 ERA, 89.0 IP, 67 K) is more than serviceable as a #1 starter.

Here we go. The best offense in the country resides with Georgia College. The Bobcats lead the nation in batting average (.362), doubles per game (2.56) and scoring (9.9 runs/game) while sitting fourth in slugging (.544). All nine hitters are over the .300 mark, and eight of those players have started every game for GC except one. Brandon Benson (.391 avg, 70 R, 15 2B, 22 HR, 73 RBI, .822 SLG) is a national Player of the Year candidate, while Cal Gentry (.439 avg, 55 R, 11 2B, 42 RBI, .484 OBP) is one of the nation's leading hitters in average. Seven sluggers have at least 11 doubles in this potent lineup. Brady Walsh (6-2, 2.38 ERA, 17 app, 5 GS, 56.2 IP, 50 K) has the best numbers on the mound in a swing role, but who really cares about the pitching when you can rake like these guys can?

The Railsplitters of Lincoln Memorial were a cautionary tale this year. LMU began the season 1-7 and quickly fell out of the pre-season rankings, but have since gone 32-10 and are one of the hotter teams going. They have an unquestioned slugger anchoring their lineup in Logan Augustine (.389 avg, 69 R, 16 2B, 13 HR, 52 RBI) and have five players who have driven in at least 41 runs this season. They don't have eye-popping pitching numbers, but a nod goes to Ethan Elliott (5-3, 3.81 ERA, 2 CG, 75.2 IP, 72 K) for wearing #99 and being the team's top pitcher by the numbers.

Host: Angelo State
Site: Foster Field at 1st Community Credit Union Field in San Angelo, Texas
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
1. Angelo State (41-13), LSC, .536, 71st, LSC Regular Season Champions
2. Colorado Mesa (44-10), RMAC, .542, 55th, RMAC Regular Season Champions, RMAC Tournament Champions
3. West Texas A&M (35-16), LSC, .524, 94th, LSC Tournament Champions, LSC 3rd Place
4. Lubbock Christian (37-14), Heartland, .525, 90th, HC Regular Season Champions
5. St. Edward's (33-18), Heartland, .484, 197th, HC Tournament Champions, HC 4th Place
6. Arkansas-Fort Smith (33-20), Heartland, .560, 29th, HC 2nd Place

This, in my opinion, might be the most competitive region we have going. Any of the six teams here could find their way to the national finals, but the march begins with top-seeded Angelo State. The Rams are in a familiar spot, and have been one of the best programs in the country the last couple years. Jacob Boston (.372 avg, 49 R, 10 HR, 52 RBI) leads the team in most major hitting categories, while the quasi-trio of Blake Barr (1-0, 2.08 ERA, 11 app, 6 GS, 30.1 IP, 28 K), Shane Browning (1-2, 2.83 ERA, 47.2 IP, 58 K) and Matt Shannon (8-4, 2.85 ERA, 2 CG, 88.1 IP, 79 K) form a good 1-3 if Barr is called upon to start.

Colorado Mesa has won 32 of its last 33 games, including a 28-game winning streak. Yea, you read that right. The Mavericks are one of the top offenses in the country with a .343 team average, but they have an interesting approach to their lineup that most of the teams in the regional tournaments don't utilize. The Mavs have their six usual starters, but the other three spots are split almost evenly. 14 different players have started at least 16 games for CMU. Bligh Madris (.455 avg, 52 R, 14 2B, 4 3B, 16 HR, 63 RBI, .829 SLG, .543 OBP) is second in the country in batting average, while Kyle Serrano (.418 avg, 64 R, 20 2B, 9 HR, 32 RBI) and PJ Gonzalez (.373 avg, 65 R, 20 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 20/23 SB) help put together arguably the top trio in the nation. With all those great numbers, however, the star of the show might be Kyle Leahy. The national Pitcher of the Year candidate is 11-0 with a 1.21 ERA, 4 CG, and a .205 BAA in 89.1 IP.

The Buffs of West Texas A&M don't have the over-the-wall power numbers with only 33 home runs this year, but they are one of the top doubles teams in the country with 122 two-baggers, good for fourth in Division II in doubles per game (2.39). Five players are hitting .325 or better, led by Luis Amaro (.356 avg, 25 R, 16 2B, 5 HR, 52 RBI) and one of six players with 12 doubles or more. The most eye-popping guy, statistically, in maybe the entire country, is the ace on the mound, though. Marshall Kasowski (9-4, 2.19 ERA, 3 CG, 86.1 IP, 153 K, .153 BAA) leads the universe in strikeout numbers, seemingly. He and Joshua Payne (10-3, 2.59 ERA, 2 CG, 80.0 IP, 98 K) form an incredible 1-2 punch, while Dominic Yearego (5-0, 2.25 ERA, 21 app, 6 SV, 52.0 IP, 55 K) has been doing a number on opposing hitters out of the bullpen.

Lubbock Christian has been one of those well-balanced offensive attacks all year. The Chaps have only two players with more than three home runs, but all nine regulars have driven in at least 25 runs this season, meaning there aren't very many easy outs to be had in the lineup. They are a station-to-station team (only 25/36 SB this season), but have smacked quite a few doubles, with seven guys hitting double figures in that category. The Chaps' starting pitchers are pushed to their limits seemingly every game, evident by their huge innings pitched numbers. Ricky Contreras (9-2, 2.83 ERA, 6 CG, 2 SHO, 95.1 IP, 85 K), Daniel Crooks (9-1, 2.84 ERA, 85.2 IP, 94 K) and Russell Reber (9-1, 3.72 ERA, 3 CG, 96.2 IP, 47 K) are going to be on the mound...a lot. Like a lot, a lot.

The offensive story for St. Edward's focuses mainly on two guys, those being Romeo Cortina (.372 avg, 54 R, 17 2B, 8 HR, 53 RBI) and Gable Whitacre (.362 avg, 54 R, 19 2B, 4 3B, 14 HR, 62 RBI), who lead the team in almost every offensive category between the two of them, but the pitching staff for SEU might be the best in the region with a 2.92 team ERA, most of that belonging to the bullpen. Don't get us wrong, Tanner Lawson (3-2, 2.26 ERA, 51.2 IP, 52 K), Brandon Boone (6-2, 2.63 ERA, 54.2 IP, 50 K) and Ballard Infante (7-3, 2.88 ERA, 75.0 IP, 80 K) anchor what might be the deepest starting staff in the nation, but there's also five guys with at least 7 appearances this year who are twirling ERA's of 1.80 or below, led by Austin Weaver (4-0, 1.78 ERA, 13 app, 30.1 IP, 15 H, 21 K).

Arkansas-Fort Smith has the weakest offense in this regional field, but they do have a key bat with Dion Williams (.351 avg, 36 R, 15 2B, 11 3B, 5 HR, 42 RBI), one of the nation's leaders in triples. The pitching staff is where the Lions shine, however, particularly in the bullpen. Hayden Harvey (9-4, 2.89 ERA, 6 CG, 2 SHO, 93.1 IP, 76 K) is a solid ace, but Nick Yoning (3-1, 2.03 ERA, 19 app, 9 SV, 31.0 IP, 37 K), Nolan McCutcheon (2-0, 2.11 ERA, 13 app, 21.1 IP, 26 K, .139 BAA) and Clayton Whelchel (6-2, 2.76 ERA, 2 SV, 45.2 IP, 54 K) are a spectacular trio out of the 'pen for UAFS.

Host: Azusa Pacific
Site: Cougar Baseball Complex in Azusa, California
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
1. Chico State (45-9), CCAA, .533, 76th, CCAA Regular Season Champions, CCAA Tournament Champions
2. Azusa Pacific (40-10), PacWest, .510, 124th, PacWest Regular Season Champions
3. Dixie State (37-12-1), PacWest, .490, 177th, PacWest 2nd Place
4. UC San Diego (36-17), CCAA, .502, 140th, CCAA South 2nd Place
5. California Baptist (34-16), PacWest, .523, 97th, PacWest 3rd Place
6. Cal Poly Pomona (33-20), CCAA, .514, 113th, CCAA South Champions

Chico State didn't have much resistance throughout much of the season, whether in conference play or not, and they did it on the back of great pitching for the most part. Chico does have five regulars who are hitting .333 or better, but there isn't a wealth of power, as nobody hit more than seven home runs. The Wildcats did, however, have five players reach at least 12 doubles, and they stole bases like maniacs, going 111-for-145 on stolen base attempts. Regional Player of the Year Cameron Santos (.372 avg, 44 R, 12 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 46 RBI, 24/33 SB) leads the way at the plate, but the pitching staff is where the team shines. It might be the best trio in the country in the rotation, with Casey Costello (12-0, 2.38 ERA, 83.1 IP, 49 K), Hunter Haworth (7-1, 2.54 ERA, 74.1 IP, 73 K) and Cam Greenough (8-1, 2.65 ERA, 78.0 IP, 62 K).

Azusa is a case study in relying heavily on a couple players to get the job done at the plate. Pablo O'Connor (.397 avg, 59 R, 15 2B, 18 HR, 64 RBI, .772 SLG) and Adrian Tovalin (.369 avg, 51 R, 11 2B, 19 HR, 70 RBI, .760 SLG) lead the team in every offensive category for the most part besides stolen bases (Cam Bennett - 30/32). The Cougars, much like Chico, have a spectacular rotation, with Michael Fairchild (8-1, 2.16 ERA, 2 CG, 87.1 IP, 60 K), Billy Oxford (10-1, 2.82 ERA, 79.2 IP, 70 K), Dillon Miyashiro (7-2, 2.93 ERA, 4 CG, 61.1 IP, 43 K) and Kale Morton (6-0, 3.55 ERA, 63.1 IP, 36 K).

Dixie State has one of the top teams in the country by average at .343, but they are mainly a singles team. Only 34 home runs on the year, and 35 of their 103 doubles have come from two players. Drew McLaughlin (.401 avg, 38 R, 17 2B, 23 RBI, .472 OBP) and Logan Porter (.387 avg, 38 R, 18 2B, 8 HR, 66 RBI, .493 OBP) lead the way at the plate, while Mason Hilty (9-3, 2.83 ERA, 5 CG, 92.1 IP, 66 K) is the ace on the mound and Walker Williams (2-0, 0.64 ERA, 17 app, 2 SV, 14.0 IP, 10 K) has been filthy in his limited amount of time out of the bullpen.

UCSD is ramping up for their jump to Division I, and so we shouldn't be strangers to seeing them in this regional until they head on out. Jack Larsen (.354 avg, 55 R, 17 2B, 14 HR, 58 RBI) leads the team in nearly offensive category as the big bopper in the middle of the Triton lineup, but we have another pitching staff that has put up good numbers to lead the team's way. Kyle Goodbrand (4-0, 2.73 ERA, 56.0 IP, 39 K) has been a great swing starter, while Adrian Orozco (8-0, 3.09 ERA, 75.2 IP, 57 K) has been the best full-time starter on the team.

The Lancers of California Baptist were on the bubble seemingly all year, but they got it done when they needed to. CBU's offense isn't one that is going to strike fear in to opposing pitchers, but they are balanced and smart, with only one player striking out more than 29 times this season. Garett King (7-1, 2.33 ERA, 2 CG, 77.1 IP, 85 K) is going to have to lead this rotation in a big way to try and make some noise.

Cal Poly Pomona has been one of the top teams in this region for a couple years, but they'll be playing the underdog this time around. Daniel Pitts (.378 avg, 45 R, 14 2B, 10 HR, 51 RBI) leads the team in most categories offensively, while Henry Omana (6-5, 2.41 ERA, 2 CG, 86.0 IP, 83 K) and Jeff Bain (8-2, 3.32 ERA, 103.0 IP, 86 K) are a clear 1-2 in the rotation and are going to need to be at the top of their games to get CPP in a position to advance out of here.

(A correction was made to the nickname of Miles, as we mistakenly called them the Golden Tigers instead of Golden Bears.)

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